The 2012 NHL awards nominees have been chosen. The winners will be announced on Wednesday, June 20 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Sports awards exist for two purposes. First, they are meant to honor amazing athletes and management personnel. Secondly, they are meant to stir up fan interest and debate.
The NHL chooses three nominees for each award, and sportswriters and/or general managers around the league vote for the winners. While announcing the winners often stirs up debate, the announcement of the nominees themselves may be the more controversial of the two.
Here's a look at the one player/coach/GM who was left out, but deserved to be nominated for each major award.
The "major" awards to be discussed here are: Calder Trophy (best rookie), Hart Trophy (MVP), Norris Trophy (best defenseman), Selke Trophy (best defensive forward), Vezina Trophy (best goalie), Jack Adams Award (best coach) and GM Award (best GM).
Actual Nominees: Adam Henrique, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
The NHL got this one 100 percent right. The three nominees were the three leading scorers among rookies. They were also the three leaders in ice time among rookie forwards. There were no standout rookie defensemen and not even one starting goaltender, so Henrique, Landeskog and Nugent-Hopkins are no-brainer selections.
As obvious as the three nominations were though, Matt Read is just as obviously the best of the rest.
The Flyers winger finished fourth in rookie scoring and forward ice time—just behind the three nominees. He also led all rookies in goals. Read played extremely well in the defensive zone, finishing fourth in rookie plus/minus, fifth in takeaways, 11th in forward hits and first in forward blocked shots.
Stats: 79 GP, 24 G, 23 A, 47 P, plus-13, 15.5 S%, 58 BkS
Actual Nominees: Henrik Lundqvist, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos
The Hart Trophy has gone to a forward 34 times in the 38 seasons since Bobby Orr's streak of three straight Hart's ended.
In that time, only two goalies have won the award. As great as Henrik Lundqvist's 2011-12 season was, does it really stand out as one of the best goaltending seasons of all time?
Similarly, one defenseman has won the Hart Trophy since Bobby Orr, so nominating Erik Karlsson could seem over the top. Except for the fact that he actually had one of the best seasons for a defenseman in a long, long time.
Since 1995-96, only Nicklas Lidstrom in 2005-06 had more points as a defenseman. Karlsson's 78-point campaign is even more impressive when you consider the relatively average offensive talent surrounding him. He was also solid in his own end, finishing plus-16 on an average plus/minus team despite heavy ice time.
Most of all, an argument can made that Karlsson was truly the most valuable skater in the NHL this season. The Senators would have been among the league's worst teams without Karlsson, whose mastery on the power play and five-on-five absolutely changed Ottawa from the awful team they were last year to the capable one they were this year.
Stats: 81 GP, 19 G, 59 A, 78 P, plus-16, 25:19 TOI/G
Actual Nominees: Zdeno Chara, Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber
The NHL nailed this one. Erik Karlsson enjoyed one of the best offensive seasons for a defenseman in recent memory. Shea Weber led the league's best power play and was a physical force. Zdeno Chara led all defensemen in plus/minus, dominating both ends of the ice.
Choosing the best of the rest is a bit harder. Brian Campbell, Ryan Suter, Duncan Keith and Alex Pietrangelo all have unique cases. However, no defenseman impacted the game across the board like Brent Seabrook.
The Blackhawks stud was a respectable 29th among defenseman in points and 17th in ice time, but he dominated the game defensively. He was seventh in plus/minus, ninth in hits, 14th in blocked shots and 17th in takeaways.
The do-it-all defensemen tend to be overlooked when naming the league's top defensemen, but Seabrook's dominant play in his own end combined with his offensive skill make him tough to ignore.
Stats: 78 GP 9 G, 25 A, 34 P, plus-21, 198 hits, 165 BkS, 24:43 TOI/G
Actual Nominees: David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, Pavel Datsyuk
With all due respect to the three nominees, Joe Pavelski was criminally snubbed.
First and foremost, Pavelski finished third in the NHL in faceoff percentage (behind Bergeron). Datsyuk was 10th; Backes was below 50 percent. Pavelski was sixth among forwards in blocked shots, finishing with 11 more than any nominee. He was 10th in takeaways, behind Datsyuk but miles ahead of Backes and Bergeron.
Pavelski also led his team in plus/minus, something only Bergeron did. His plus/minus was better than Backes' despite his team being much worse five-on-five. Although it shouldn't really matter, Pavelski's 31 goals place him ahead of all three nominees, while his 61 points place him ahead of Backes.
All Backes has going for him is hits.
Pavelski has a strong case to earn some first-place votes, and an undeniable case to finish ahead of Backes and be a nominee.
Stats: 82 GP, 31 G, 30 A, 61 P, plus-18, 84 BkS, 73 TkA, 58.7 FO%
Actual Nominees: Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne, Jonathan Quick
Mike Smith was blatantly snubbed from a Vezina nomination, plain and simple. It's clear that these four goalies were the top four goalies in the league this season, but Smith should be clearly ahead of Rinne and potentially Quick.
He tied Henrik Lundqvist to lead all full-time goaltenders in save percentage. His 38 wins give him three more than Jonathan Quick despite two less starts. His GAA places him seven slots above Pekka Rinne and his eight shutouts dwarf Rinne's five. Although there's no stat for it, he's No. 2 in the league (after Marty Brodeur) at playing the puck.
The Phoenix Coyotes were a playoff team in each of the last two seasons. After losing Ilya Bryzgalov to free agency, many people picked Phoenix to finish at the bottom of the Western Conference. Without Mike Smith's stellar season, maybe they would have.
After all, the Yotes went 4-9-3 when Smith wasn't in the net.
Smith put up numbers that were only matched by Lundqvist and Quick. He faced 200 more shots than either of them and played behind a worse defensive team. His team beat out Quick's team for the division title.
Mike Smith should finish a close second to Henrik Lundqvist in Vezina voting. Unfortunately, he won't even get a single vote.
Stats: 67 GP, 38-18-10, .930 Sv%, 2.21 GAA, 8 SO
Actual Nominees: Ken Hitchcock, Paul MacLean, John Tortorella
It's tough to say whether Trotz was actually snubbed or whether he's simply the best of the rest. Ken Hitchcock and John Tortorella are easy picks, turning teams that looked like sixth or seventh seeds into 109-point powerhouses.
Paul MacLean has a great case as well, taking a Senators team that was outscored by 58 goals last season and turning them into a playoff team in his first year as a head coach.
Trotz's case is very different, but equally as compelling. He has been the head coach in Nashville since 1998 and has never won the Jack Adams. This despite taking a team in a non-traditional hockey market and turning them into a perennial playoff team.
This season looked to present challenges for Trotz, as the Predators lost some key pieces in the offseason. Despite this, Trotz's team finished with the third-most regulation/overtime wins in the NHL, and they finished higher in the standings than Detroit, Chicago, San Jose and Los Angeles—all superior teams on paper.
The Predators were so successful this season due to Trotz's genius system: They were out-shot almost every night, but relied on strong goaltending, board and net-front play to limit high-quality scoring chances. They would wait for a chance to break out with numbers, and were deadly in transition.
This system frustrated opponents and drew penalties for Trotz's power play, which was No. 1 in the NHL despite a lack of dominant forwards.
Actual Nominees: Doug Armstrong, David Poile, Dale Tallon
Not only should Paul Holmgren have been nominated for GM of the Year, he should win it going away.
The Philadelphia Flyers have a history of success and a history of lofty expectations. So when they roll out a stacked lineup night after night and win games on a consistent basis, it satisfies but does not impress. That's unfair to Paul Holmgren, who is doing a remarkable job building this team for both the long and short term in this salary cap era.
After being swept out of the conference semifinals last season, Holmgren realized that his Flyers were not good enough to win the cup. The Philadelphia faithful reiterated the dissatisfaction.
With so much pressure to win it all, Holmgren could have panicked and went all-in this season. Instead, he subtly improved his team while also getting even younger and better prepared for long-term success.
Holmgren moved Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. In return, he received Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. Philly moved two underachieving, high-paid stars in their prime for four forwards under 23 years old with high-ceiling potential.
He used the money he saved to bring in a bona fide No. 1 goalie in Ilya Bryzgalov, deadly winger in Jaromir Jagr and quality depth center in Max Talbot. He didn't re-sign the now-overpaid Ville Leino and moved the unnecessary Kris Versteeg for draft picks.
The Blues, Predators and Panthers all exceeded expectations, while Philadelphia simply met them. But that has little to do with what GM improved their team the most this season, and Holmgren's Flyers are masterfully constructed to win now and for years to come.